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Broncos-Raiders fantasy football preview: Who to start, sit

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

At the season’s inception, most assumed this Sunday’s game in Oakland might decide who will take hold of the AFC West. Instead, it is a game to decide who will not be in the basement of the division.

Fantasy wise, it is tough to get a gauge on each team. The Denver Broncos have a defense that should be good, but isn’t. Same with the Oakland Raiders’ offense.

It could easily be an ugly fantasy day with two new coordinators calling the game, two struggling teams and an inexperienced quarterback. But fantasy won’t pause during this sleep fest, so here are three players to start and three to sit.

Start: TE Jared Cook

Denver has been subpar in covering tight ends surrendering a touchdown to the position in the last four contests and five out of the last six. The defense has also given up 85.5 yards per game over those same six games to tight ends.

Sunday could easily be a bounce back game for the Broncos’ defense as they look to take advantage of a sputtering offense.

If the Raiders do struggle early and can’t find a rhythm, look for Cook to be the man Derek Carr targets in those tough situations.

Overall, Cook has recently been reliable and is going against a defense that has struggled to cover tight ends making him a solid fantasy play on Sunday.

Start: RB Marshawn Lynch

If you have reading my articles you know I said to never play Marshawn Lynch again. But here we are a few weeks later and I admit I was wrong.

Lynch looked explosive last weekend against New England but couldn’t get the number of carries to have a big fantasy day as Oakland fell behind early.

On Sunday, it should be difficult for the Raiders to fall behind considering Denver is starting quarterback Paxton Lynch and is just not good on offense.

Therefore, the Broncos should get a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch. And even if he is not impactful when he runs, he should be able to find the end zone with an upset Oakland offensive line after the atrocious performance in Mexico City.

NFL: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Start: WR Demaryius Thomas

Over the past four weeks, like everyone in Raider Nation has noticed, the Raiders couldn’t be much worse in the secondary. The team is so desperate they started Obi Melifonwu at cornerback last weekend and have been starting Dexter McDonald since David Amerson has been out.

The secondary has allowed six touchdowns and 743 receiving yards to the position over the last four games. Amazingly, two of those games were against the inept Jay Cutler and the run-happy Tyrod Taylor.

Lynch will not scare anyone at quarterback, but Oakland has shown to be successful in making any quarterback-receiving duo look good. Expect more of the same on Sunday with Thomas and Lynch.

Sit: WR Michael Crabtree

Michael Crabtree has not faired well against his division rival only hauling in one touchdown in six career games (including San Francisco). Crabtree also has a poor 55 percent career catch rate against the Broncos and has a career high of just 54 yards receiving.

Crabtree’s poor numbers are a consistent trend against Denver. Unless he gets loose in the red zone, it will not be a productive fantasy day for the Raiders’ top fantasy wide out.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Sit: QB Derek Carr

Much like Crabtree, Carr has not seen a lot of success against the Broncos as he has thrown for over 200 yards just once in his six career starts.

Carr also hasn’t been able to find the end zone often throwing just seven touchdowns to four interceptions in those six games.

With the offense struggling more than it ever has in the past three seasons, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for Carr to have a monster game throwing for over 250 yards and a few scores.

Sit: RB CJ Anderson

If Oakland decides to do one thing well on defense, which they might with Ken Norton Jr. off the staff, it will be stopping the run. The team just doesn’t have the personnel to be good in the passing game. But with Khalil Mack, NaVorro Bowman, Mario Edwards Jr., and Bruce Irvin, they have the potential to stuff the run.

Moreover, CJ Anderson just has not been very effective in the ground game only rushing for 40.5 yards per game over the last six weeks.

As such, the Raiders should be able to play with added physicality since their season and pride are on the line to stop an already struggling rushing attack.